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Motherhood & Creativity

{Me and my mom, the most intelligent and creative woman I know}

Yesterday, on his way home from the airport after a few days in NYC for work, Tony texted me: “I watched Daddy’s Home [on the plane] and it was real bad, but made me want to be a dad.” He’s saying stuff like this a lot lately. The topic of parenthood is a big one in our house. People ask me on a near-daily basis when we’re having kids. I wrote about my feelings on motherhood recently, and my stance hasn’t changed. But this week, several friends shared a pretty incendiary piece from New York Magazine’s The Cut by Kim Brooks, entitled “A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Mom: Is domestic life the enemy of creative work?” I haven’t been able to get it off my mind, and so I decided to write about it here today. Read the piece for yourself, but here are a few of the excerpts that caused me to lose sleep:

The inclusion of this quote from Doris Lessing: “No one can write with a child around … There is nothing more boring for an intelligent woman than to spend endless amounts of time with small children.”

“Surely, I thought, there was no reason in the 21st century that a person like myself couldn’t be a great wife, a great mother, and also the sort of obsessive, depressive, distracted writer whose persona I’d always romanticized.

I was so confident in this conviction, in fact, that it took me almost a decade to admit to myself that I was wrong.”

In an essay called ‘Ladies of Leisure: The Resurgence of the Housewife Novel,’ the critic Laura Miller describes the female protagonists in this new brand of novel: ‘Unable to sleep, a woman sits at the kitchen table or walks her neighborhood by night. She is 37, maybe 36. She is a wife and mother, roles that seem to have taken over her identity. Yet she looks down on women like that — most of whom, she can’t help noticing, are better at being wives and mothers than she is. She used to dream of art or writing or some other creative endeavor. Now, she takes pills. She’s bored. She’s anxious. She’s guilt-ridden. She’s exhausted and frustrated and probably depressed.’

What can I say other than: It’s me.”

On a conversation with a friend: “I asked her if she thought this was why so many frustrated writer-artist-mothers were funneling their creative energy into parenthood now, becoming the CEOs or artistic directors of their children’s lives in lieu of other creative work.”

Her writer-mother friend Gina Frangello’s response: “You know, a lot of people glamorize the idea of being an artist. But of course then they find that actually it sucks and that no one gives a fuck and that they can’t succeed and they can’t monetize it and they can’t even get their work out into the world and it’s really hard and thankless and they’re spending untold hours at it and their friends are becoming successful in their chosen, normative fields and they’re like the weird loser who’s going to be a writer and it was so impressive when they were 23 and now they’re 33 and they still don’t have a book out … Well, sure, it’s great to say parenting is like my art and make beautiful Rice Krispy Treats with little candy unicorns on them or some shit. I mean, why not? I love Rice Krispy Treats. I have to finish this book in a few months, and it’s like hitting my head against a cement block. Give me the fucking Rice Krispy Treats.”

Another writer-mother friend, on parenthood: “The truth is that I think I’m a better mom when I’m not writing. I’m not writing right now and I’m enjoying the kids more. I’m better at home when I’m writing less.”

As you can imagine, this piece inspired some strongly worded comments and opinions, some celebrating the author’s honesty and others ripping her to shreds. One pregnant friend shared it, asking something along the lines of PLEASE TELL ME THIS IS NOT TRUE (which echoed my thoughts exactly).

I will say this: I think woman-on-woman crime is disgusting and gets us nowhere. I’m not a mom, and I have no right to judge any mom, including the author of this article. But I do want to talk about it, because this piece reflected some of my greatest fears about motherhood – reading it terrified me, and the immature part of me hates the author for voicing those fears as her and many of her artist friends’ actual reality, that could someday also be my reality. I also feel that it perpetuates the negative and inaccurate stereotype that women who love and embrace motherhood full-heartedly are not, cannot be, creative beings. Or that writing is somehow more difficult than being a mother, and “giving up” art to be a mom is the easy way out… My understanding from pretty much every parent I’ve ever spoken to is that motherhood is the hardest job in the world. I’m gonna repeat what my friend said: PLEASE TELL ME THIS IS NOT TRUE.

At one point, she brings up a talented friend of hers who gave up her career and passion and dreams when she became a mother. She says spending time with this woman reminds her that this friend is a better mother than she could ever be. But, she follows up with this response her friend gave when she asked about her photography: “I’m not doing it. I just can’t. I can’t get the space. Even when I have a few hours, it doesn’t work. They’re always with me, even when they’re not. There are moments when I feel like I’m dying a little more every day. I feel like a fish that’s been caught and then abandoned on a dock, lying there, flopping and gasping, each gasp weaker than the last.”

That is motherhood?

I know I’m being melodramatic, but this is a very scary portrayal of it to me. I’ve watched friends in my life make similar choices and, while I applaud them for doing what was best for themselves and their families, I worry about being in that position, facing that same choice, myself. Even though exactly none of them have described feeling like a dying fish; in fact, when I ask them about it, they have universally said that becoming a mom and choosing to focus on that full-time was the best thing they ever did. So, there’s that, too. But nothing gives me more hope than seeing an exhausted mom at a commercial audition, sometimes with her kids in tow, because I think, “She’s still doing it! I’ll still be able to do it, too!” A few of my closest friends are in the same place as me career-wise, and they’re incredible moms who prove to me daily that balance is achievable, if complicated and messy.

And then I read an article like this one and have a mental breakdown, and remember that I can’t even write in coffee shops because I get so distracted. I have to write at home, alone, in quiet. I can’t even focus if Tony is listening to music or watching TV in the other room. How will I write when my kids are in the other room? (Now, I’m not being melodramatic. I am asking all of you parents out there, HOW DO YOU DO IT?)

I do want kids. I do. I love my niece and nephew, and I love being an honorary aunt to my best friends’ kids. Being around them makes me want to be a mom. I just don’t want to until I can figure out how to balance it all perfectly. I know that there is no such thing and in books and movies, the “perfect women” always end up being serial killers or evil, like with “Gone Girl” and Martha Stewart. But something in my brain keeps telling me I will be the special one to finally crack this code and achieve it, (even though most days my time management skills are so poor I don’t shower). And I want to figure it all out before I become a mom. (Healthy and functional thinking, I know!)

As someone who is simultaneously pursuing a healthy, happy marriage and family life, as well as a career in Hollywood where unhealthy choices are often celebrated as “risks” and “art,” I sometimes feel like an imposter. Like I can’t be a comedian and happy in the very traditional life I’ve chosen. I also sometimes feel judged by my friends and peers when I write about domestic things on this blog, like a recipe I love or the hair products I use. I always try to write whatever it is I’m sharing on any given day in a funny way, but on the particularly Stepford Wife-ish posts, I worry that it takes away my credibility as an artist by embracing something so “housewifey” and “mainstream.” One friend recently asked, “How is the writing going? Not the blog, the real writing.” I love to write R-rated comedies and sketches where I play gross strippers, and I also love to write about how much I love my husband, cake and a dress I got on sale on this blog. I worry about the day when I have kids and people ask me how the writing is going, the real writing, and I’m scared I won’t be writing at all because I won’t have time or because I like motherhood so much I won’t want to anymore.

And maybe that’s it, what resonated deepest with me: That motherhood will fulfill me the way writing and performing does now, and I’ll lose sight of my own dreams. I keep saying to myself (and anyone who asks The Baby Question), that I’ll tackle motherhood once I sell a script, book a regular role on a TV show, get enough followers on this blog and social media that someone offers me a book deal and I become the next Kelly Oxford. Then I’ll have space in my life, because then I can retire if I need to and still have a swan song to look back on instead of a bunch of dreams that almost came true.

What are your thoughts on that article? For a third and final time, I ask all of you parents out there: PLEASE TELL ME THIS IS NOT TRUE. And also, how you balance it. Please and thank you.